Published: 17 November 2015

The Source: agile digital project development in action

Macmillan Cancer Support is always looking for innovative ways to reach out to people whose lives are touched by cancer. 

This includes the wider circle of friends and family of people diagnosed. The charity has long considered ways to engage with them, to offer support as well as to introduce them to the work of Macmillan. The answer was to create a specific digital product, a website called The Source, where tips can be posted and shared, bringing those with shared experience closer together. 

New thinking to remove risk

Reaching out to a new audience meant that the experience had to be engaging from launch. The product would have to be useful and useable for the target audience. After initial discussions with Macmillan, we recommended a ‘digital product design’ methodology because the risks associated with the new digital offering would be minimised. It would mean key questions like “Will the concept engage the audience?” and “What should the product do?” could be answered very early on.

The underlying concept was a digital product that would connect Macmillan with this audience, and members of that audience with each other, through the exchange of ideas and advice, without detracting from Macmillan’s existing online community site or conversations on social media. To do this, the WPN Chameleon team used a combination of rapid prototyping and user-centred design techniques, fundamentals of a digital product approach. 

Accelerated learning 

Starting with an initial eight-week rapid prototyping exercise, we started to define the right product that would engage the target audience. Among other techniques, we used ‘coffee shop’ testing of concepts with potential users (asking strangers to give feedback), including mobile views.

Once there were two concepts that resonated with people, WPN Chameleon then created responsive HTML prototypes that were iterated in weekly sprints and tested against each other with users in order to shape the eventual product structure, functionality and interface. 

Once prototyping was completed the digital creative team got to work. Having already implemented the refreshed Macmillan brand identity on another of their online platforms, we were able to ensure that The Source, although new and innovative, still stayed on brand.

And all through the process, there was a particular focus on user experience, with mobile and tablet very much central. 

Exceptional results

The result was that The Source went live in December 2014, just a few months after the initial discussions. And results are proving exceptional. In the first six months, Macmillan found that 65% of The Source’s users – 75,000 people – were new to Macmillan and 300 tips had been posted – a number that’s growing week by week.

Ali Sanders, Macmillan’s head of brand and creative says Macmillan is “absolutely delighted" with the performance of The Source so far.

"Not only is it attracting new audiences to Macmillan but it’s proving to be a hugely useful resource, demonstrating how powerful and engaging user generated content can be," she says. "Through the site, people all over the UK are sharing personal tips that will help others affected by cancer.”

“Our ambition is to reach and improve the lives of everyone living with cancer and to inspire millions of others to do the same. The Source has given us the platform to bring this ‘inspiring millions’ idea to life and it plays a key part in our Not Alone campaign, as we ask people to reach out and help someone they know affected by cancer.” Ali Sanders, head of brand and creative, Macmillan

Continual improvement

The other great advantage of ‘product thinking’ is that, by continuing to consider how to meet users’ needs post-launch, learnings from The Source are fed back into a continual development cycle. That means The Source can be constantly enhanced to improve the user experience over time.

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Dan Martin, digital strategy director, WPN Chameleon

With over 15 years of experience, Dan works on developing digital strategies for clients as well as WPN Chameleon's overall marketing strategy. Dan’s client experience spans B2B and B2C companies, charities and the public sector, technology start-ups and blue chip corporates. His expertise lies in getting to the heart of the matter using insights, research, experience and common sense, then using digital media and technology as the solution, connecting online to offline along the way.